Is there any meaning in tragedy?
Modern life is filled with tragedy. Illness, death, natural disasters, crime, and heartbreaking calamities are unavoidable in the world that is plagued by sin. Romans 8:22-23 tells us that "the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." This is a clue to meaning in tragic events—they cause us to hope for a better life in the future. They cause us to look toward the day when we, and the whole world, will be made whole and perfect again at the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus.
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Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, most human suffering has been caused by sin. Crimes such as murder and rape are the fault of the criminal disobeying the moral law of God (Exodus 20:13; Romans 1:18-21). While God is perfectly capable of stopping tragedies before they begin, sometimes He chooses not to. We may not understand why God allows tragedy, but we can have confidence in His goodness and trust Him (Proverbs 3:5-6). God knows when a sparrow falls, and He knows when we face tragedy and why (Matthew 10:29-31). Furthermore, God both assured us that we would face trouble in this world (John 16:33) and that He has experienced our struggles personally (Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:15).
God has sovereign control over all things, but it is important to remember that while God is not the source of sin, He may be the source of certain tragedies. The prophet Amos told the Israelites of the word spoken against them: "Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?" (Amos 3:6) God used disaster to distress the Israelites who had turned from Him to follow idols. When God does cause disaster to fall, He does so for His own purposes, and even though we may not know why, we do know that He is perfect, just, and holy, and so is His will.
If life on this earth was void of tragedy and heartache, our hearts and minds would remain focused on this life, and the hope of a future in heaven would be less important. But tragedy increases our desire for heaven and keeps our eyes focused on the Savior (Titus 2:13). The suffering we experience in this world does two other beneficial things. It drives us to our knees in prayer as we seek God's help and comfort, and it develops our patience and dependence on Him (James 1:2-4; Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:7).
Tragic events remind us not only that we live in an imperfect and fallen world, but that there is a God who loves us and offers something better than the world has to offer. He offers eternal life in a perfect environment where there will be no more tears, no more pain, and no more sorrow (Revelation 21:4). Death will be conquered (Revelation 20:6, 14). The best thing about heaven is the presence of our Lord and Savior (1 John 3:2). We will be face to face with the Lamb of God who loved us and sacrificed Himself so that all who believe in Him will enjoy His presence in heaven for eternity.
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